Time passes very quickly around here and I hadn’t realized until recently that over a year has gone by since we launched DynamoDB. As I sat down with the DynamoDB team to review our progress over the last year, I realized that DynamoDB had surpassed even my own expectations for how easily applications could achieve massive scale and high availability with DynamoDB. Many of our customers have, with the click of a button, created DynamoDB deployments in a matter of minutes that are able to serve trillions of database requests per year. I’ve written about it before, but I continue to be impressed by Shazam’s use of DynamoDB, which is an extreme example of how DynamoDB’s fast and easy scalability can be quickly applied to building high scale applications. Shazam’s mobile app was integrated with Super Bowl ads, which allowed advertisers to run highly interactive advertising campaigns during the event. Shazam needed to handle an enormous increase in traffic for the duration of the Super Bowl and used DynamoDB as part of their architecture. After working with DynamoDB for only three days, they had already managed to go from the design phase to a fully production-ready deployment that could handle the biggest advertising event of the year.

In the year since DynamoDB launched, we have seen widespread adoption by customers building everything from e-commerce platforms, real-time advertising exchanges, mobile applications, Super Bowl advertising campaigns, Facebook applications, and online games. This rapid adoption has allowed us to benefit from the scale economies inherent in our architecture. We have also reduced our underlying costs through significant technical innovations from our engineering team. I’m thrilled that we are able to pass along these cost savings to our customers in the form of significantly lower prices - as much as 85% lower than before.

The details of our price drop are as follows:

Throughput costs: We are dropping our provisioned throughput costs for both read requests and write requests by 35%. We are also introducing a Reserved Capacity model that offers customers discounted pricing if they reserve read and write capacity for one or three years. For customers reserving capacity for three years, the price of throughput will drop from today’s prices by 85%. For customers reserving capacity for one year, the price of throughput will drop from today’s prices by 70%. For more details on reserved capacity, please read the DynamoDB FAQs.

Indexed Storage costs: We are lowering the price of indexed storage by 75%. For example, in our US East (N. Virginia) Region, the price of data storage will drop from $1 per GB per month to $0.25. All data items continue to be stored on Solid State Drives (SSDs) and are automatically replicated across multiple distinct Availability Zones to provide very high durability and availability.

How are we able to do this?

DynamoDB runs on a fleet of SSD-backed storage servers that are specifically designed to support DynamoDB. This allows us to tune both our hardware and our software to ensure that the end-to-end service is both cost-efficient and highly performant. We’ve been working hard over the past year to improve storage density and bring down the costs of our underlying hardware platform. We have also made significant improvements to our software by optimizing our storage engine, replication system and various other internal components. The DynamoDB team has a mandate to keep finding ways to reduce the cost and I am glad to see them delivering in a big way. DynamoDB has also benefited from its rapid growth, which allows us to take advantage of economies of scale. As with our other services, as we’ve made advancements that allow us to reduce our costs, we are happy to pass the savings along to you.

When is it appropriate to use DynamoDB?

I am often asked: When is it appropriate to use DynamoDB instead of a relational database?

We used relational databases when designing the Amazon.com ecommerce platform many years ago. As Amazon’s business grew from being a startup in the mid-1990s to a global multi-billion-dollar business, we came to realize the scaling limitations of relational databases. A number of high profile outages at the height of the 2004 holiday shopping season can be traced back to scaling relational database technologies beyond their capabilities. In response, we began to develop a collection of storage and database technologies to address the demanding scalability and reliability requirements of the Amazon.com ecommerce platform. This was the genesis of NoSQL databases like Dynamo at Amazon. From our own experience designing and operating a highly available, highly scalable ecommerce platform, we have come to realize that relational databases should only be used when an application really needs the complex query, table join and transaction capabilities of a full-blown relational database. In all other cases, when such relational features are not needed, a NoSQL database service like DynamoDB offers a simpler, more available, more scalable and ultimately a lower cost solution.

We now believe that when it comes to selecting a database, no single database technology – not even one as widely used and popular as a relational database like Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server or MySQL - will meet all database needs. A combination of NoSQL and relational database may better service the needs of a complex application. Today, DynamoDB has become very widely used within Amazon and is used every place where we don’t need the power and flexibility of relational databases like Oracle or MySQL. As a result, we have seen enormous cost savings, on the order of 50% to 90%, while achieving higher availability and scalability as our internal teams have moved many of their workloads onto DynamoDB.

So, what should you do when you’re building a new application and looking for the right database option? My recommendation is as follows: Start by looking at DynamoDB and see if that meets your needs. If it does, you will benefit from its scalability, availability, resilience, low cost, and minimal operational overhead. If a subset of your database workload requires features specific to relational databases, then I recommend moving that portion of your workload into a relational database engine like those supported by Amazon RDS. In the end, you’ll probably end up using a mix of database options, but you will be using the right tool for the right job in your application.

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